The Crazy Kitchen: June 2013

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Saturday 29 June 2013

The Best No Fry Chips

You can't beat the taste of home-made chips. I can still remember now the ones my Mum used to make before she went healthy and ditched the deep fat fryer in favour of the new fandangled oven chips when they came onto the market. 

I've only ever owned a deep fat fryer once, when we lived in the US, and would cook 'proper chips' on a Friday as American fries were just not the same. I don't own one now so if we have chips it's usually from the local chippy or I make them myself in the oven, and they really are just as good as fried.

I never bother peeling the potatoes as it's much too time consuming and I don't see the point in wasting the lovely skin. I just slice the potatoes and cut them into chips, then wash them thoroughly and drain them .

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Heat the oven to around 200 C, add a generous glug of olive oil to a large baking tin and pop it in the oven for 5-10 minutes to heat up.

Add the potatoes and toss in the olive oil to coat them fully and pop the tin back in the oven for around 35-45 minutes depending on how thick the chips are, tossing them a couple of times during this time.
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Jack demonstrates here how to eat a hot chip!

fmWo4E on Make A Gif, Animated Gifs

(by the way he isn't 3, he just chose to put this t-shirt on when he came home from a party and got changed to play in the garden)

Friday 28 June 2013

Chocolate Cookies & sleepovers at the next level

When I find a recipe for cakes and cookies that works and works well I use it over and over again, trying out different variations. A couple of months ago a friend gave me a recipe for some cookies and I've baked them over and over again since, in various different flavour combinations.

Yesterday I baked two batches of them, one for the Preschool summer fair, which had mixed spice in, and another batch for Sam to take on a sleepover tonight. He's been on lots of sleepovers in the past but this one is a bit different. He's at High School now and has made lots of new friends, friends that I don't know nor where they live, friends whose parents I don't know, and the sleepover is at the house of one of those friends. It's a big step. I've spoken to and text the Mum of the friend and she seems very nice and has assured me they (his friend since he was 4 is going too) will be well looked after. The other friend's dad (we've known him for 8 years) is taking them, and I trust his judgment. It's time to let go a little...... but I'm hoping these will keep him coming back to his Mummy.

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Chocolate Cookies - makes 20-24 

115g butter
230g caster sugar
35g golden syrup
1 egg
200g SR flour
25g Cocoa powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • Beat the butter and sugar together
  • Mix in the golden syrup & egg
  • Stir the flour, bicarbonate of soda, and cocoa powder together and add to the butter/sugar mixture
  • Roll mixture into balls (approx 3-4cm in diameter) and place on a greased baking sheet, spaced well apart
  • Bake in a preheated 170 C oven for approx 12minutes*, until golden brown
  • Cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack
*if you prefer the cookies to be chewy then cook them for 2-3 minutes less

Thursday 27 June 2013

Turkey Bolognaise with Herby Tortilla Chips

Sometimes (well actually almost all of the time) midweek dinner has to be quick as Jack starts asking for something to eat as soon as we get back from school. If he has a snack he won't eat his dinner, so I try and distract him as much as possible until it's cooked. It usually works and his plate is almost always  clean, and when I cooked this dinner it was no exception, and as a bonus it was on the table in only around 20 minutes.

It was made using one of the packs of the new Schwartz 2in1 recipe mixes that I had been sent. The mixes are in two parts, one that is used to flavour the main dish and the other the side or topping. They come in 5 flavours and you can find out more about them here.

I wanted to try something a little bit different and so didn't follow the recipe on the pack for Garlic and Thyme Roast Chicken and Crispy Roast Potatoes and instead went for Turkey Bolognaise with Herby Tortilla Chips.

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Turkey Bolognaise with Herby Tortilla Chips
- serves 4

1 tbsp Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
225g Turkey thigh mince
Schwartz 2in1 Garlic & Thyme (Roast chicken sachet)
400g tin of chopped tomatoes

Tortilla Chips
4 Flour tortillas
Olive oil
Schwartz 2in1 Garlic & Thyme (crispy potatoes sachet)
  • Heat the olive oil in a pan
  • Add the onion and fry gently for 2 minutes
  • Add the turkey mince and fry for 5 minutes, stirring regularly
  • Add the roast chicken sachet and tomatoes
  • Stir well, place the lid on and simmer for 15 minutes
  • Meanwhile preheat the oven to 180 C
  • Brush one side of the tortillas with olive oil
  • Sprinkle the crispy roast potatoes sachet over the tortillas
  • Cut each tortilla into 8 wedges (I use scissors for this)
  • Place the tortillas onto baking sheets
  • Bake for 8-10 minutes until crispy
  • Allow to cool

Serve the bolognaise with pasta, cous cous or rice, salad and the tortilla chips

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This post is an entry for BritMums 'What's for Dinner Tonight?' sponsored by Schwartz. find out more about the mixes here.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

I have a bit of a thing for salted caramel and I sometimes crave it. I don't always give in to those cravings but occasionally when I'm out and spot salted caramel I have to give it a try. Unfortunately everyone seems to be jumping on the salted caramel bandwagon and I've tried some foods that just don't hit the spot so I thought it was time to attempt a salted caramel ice cream. 

This recipe is so simple, with only 3 ingredients. In fact it's so simple it really doesn't deserve to be so bloomin delicious!

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Salted Caramel Ice Cream

600ml Double Cream
397g Carnation Caramel
5g Sea Salt

  • Whisk together the cream and 300g of the caramel until it forms peaks
  • Pour the mixture into a freezable container
  • Beat the salt into the remaining caramel & stir through the ice cream mixture, leaving swirls of caramel
  • Freeze for around 4 hours
  • remove from the freezer approx 10 minutes before serving

Absolutely gorgeous served with chopped toasted pecans.

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Cups and spoons from The Sweet Hostess 

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Gifts for Teachers - Hot Chocolate Spoons

I intended to make these hot chocolate spoons before Christmas but my Mum bought some ready made from Lidl (or possibly Aldi, I get confused) which were perfect for what I needed them for. I thought they would make great gifts for teachers as the end of the school year is fast approaching. If you're like me and have five members of staff at Preschool to buy gifts for then something home-made and inexpensive such as these is perfect. Edible gifts have always gone down well with Preschool staff and the teachers at our school as it's not personal and it's not a mug (although we have bought mugs in the past too!).

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For each spoon you will need :

a wooden or plastic spoon, lollipop stick or coffee stirrer
empty yoghurt pot
approx 25g dark chocolate 
A few micro Marshmallows (these were from Asda)
cellophane bags or sheets

  • Melt the chocolate in the microwave on short bursts until smooth
  • Sprinkle a few marshmallows into the base of the yoghurt pot 
  • Pour in the chocolate
  • Stand the spoon in the pot, you may need to rest against the side
  • Sprinkle a few more marshmallows on the top
  • Allow to fully set before removing from the pot and wrapping

You can either add a gift tag with instructions for use or write on the back of the spoon 'Stir into hot milk'

Frugal Tips!

  • The chocolate doesn't have to be expensive - Asda Smart price dark chocolate at 30p per bar is very nice and works just as well as the more expensive brands. 
  • A tip from my Mum is to save the hanging loops (only the satin ribbons not the elasticated ones) from tops and blouses to add the perfect finishing touch to little gifts and they come in all sorts of colours - as well as being free!
  • You can find wooden coffee stirrers in the big coffee shops - but you didn't hear that one from me *taps nose*, or you can buy them off Ebay.

These spoons cost around 27p each to make but you could make them cheaper using coffee stirrers or plastic spoons.

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If you really want to you could buy the mug too, I'm sure every teacher secretly loves receiving 30 'Best Teacher' mugs every year.

Monday 24 June 2013

Healthy Summer Recipes

I've been asked to come up with a couple of healthy recipes for the Most Wanted Summer Shape Up, Save Up project, which are under 500 calories and £5 per portion.  I try and cook healthy meals whenever I can to compensate for all the cakes and sweet stuff that is usually knocking around the kitchen. It's not always easy to cook healthily when you're in a hurry though, and it's usually quicker to throw something unhealthy in the oven for tea.

Tasty salads and meals don't have to take ages to make and these took under 30 minutes to prepare. The salad is around 320 calories and under £2.50 per portion and the chicken pitta around 400 calories and under £2.00 per portion

Grilled Halloumi and Aubergine Salad - serves 2

1 Aubergine, sliced

125g Halloumi, sliced into 6 pieces
2 tbsp Olive oil
juice of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 small green chilli, finely sliced
6 fresh mint leaves, ripped
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
black pepper
6 cherry tomatoes, halved
handful of fresh coriander
35g Rocket

  • Use your finger to rub a small amount of olive oil onto both sides of the aubergine and halloumi slices
  • Heat a griddle pan and cook the halloumi and aubergine in batches for approx 2-4 minutes each side for the aubergine and 2 minutes each side for the halloumi
  • Mix the remaining olive oil with the lemon juice, chilli, mint leaves, white wine vinegar and black pepper
  • Cut the grilled aubergine & halloumi into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl with the tomatoes 
  • Toss in the dressing to coat everything fully
  • Add the coriander and rocket to the bowl and toss quickly
  • Serve immediately

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Pesto Chicken Pitta - serves 4

4 skinless & boneless chicken breasts
60g sundried tomato Pesto
1/2 small white cabbage
1 carrot, peeled
1 small red onion, peeled
100g Low fat natural Greek yoghurt
10 mint leaves
grated zest of 1/2 large lemon
4 pitta breads
Lemon wedges for serving

  • Rub the pesto onto both sides of the chicken 
  • Grill, griddle or barbecue the chicken for around 5-8 minutes each side, depending on how thick the breasts are, checking that they are cooked right through
  • Meanwhile finely slice the cabbage, carrot and onion
  • Chop the mint leaves and mix with the yoghurt and lemon zest
  • Once the chicken is cooked slice it into thick slices
  • Toast the pitta breads and slice open
  • Fill the pittas with salad and top with slices of chicken and yoghurt
  • Serve with lemon wedges

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Summer healthy eating tips

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Have lots of fresh fruit and vegetables ready prepared in your fridge for snacking on
  • Make fun fruit kebabs with children to get them eating more fruit
  • BBQ your meat for a tasty result without using cooking oils
  • Bulk out your sandwich with lots of fresh salad
  • Frozen fruit is great to stock up on for chilled fruit smoothies
  • Use Greek yoghurt in salad dressings and dips instead of mayonnaise - even the low fat version is creamy

I was compensated for the cost of ingredients

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Brazil Nut Cookies for Dad

My Dad loves Brazil nuts, well I assume he still loves Brazil nuts as I've been buying them for him almost every Father's day, birthday and Christmas for the past twenty years or so. Before that I used to by M&S Grand Marnier chocolate bars but they stopped making them so I moved on to Brazil nut toffee from Thorntons, but nowadays my Dad prefers something a little gentler on his teeth so Thorntons chocolate Brazils it is.

This Father's Day the nuts were accompanied by a subscription to National Geographic Traveller, a bottle of local cider and some home-made Brazil nut cookies, which I packaged in a kids tin bucket.

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Brazil Nut Cookies

115g Butter, softened
230g Caster sugar
35g Golden syrup
1 Egg
230g Self Raising Flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
50g Brazil nuts, roughly chopped
  • Beat the butter and sugar together
  • Mix in the golden syrup & egg
  • Stir the flour, bicarbonate of soda, and chopped Brazil nuts together and add to the butter/sugar mixture
  • Roll mixture into small balls (approx 4cm in diameter) and place on a greased baking sheet, spaced well apart
  • Bake in a preheated 170 C oven for approx 12minutes*, until golden brown
  • Cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to a wire rack
*if you prefer the cookies to be chewy then cook them for 2-3 minutes less

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Thursday 13 June 2013

Salmon Cannelloni

Sadly the six month long Swallow's Recipes for Life challenge on Bangers & Mash is now coming to an end, with this month being the last. I have been lucky enough to win the challenge for the last three months so the pressure is now on. Unfortunately one of the three ingredients for this month isn't a favourite food of mine so I may only manage this one recipe - I've got to give everyone else a fair crack at the whip too of course!

AMENDMENT - apparently I can't count & we still have another challenge for July, yay!! 

Fish and seafood are not something that I eat very often and really have to be in the mood for it so when I heard that one of the ingredients was salmon my heart sank a little. The husband absolutely loves it though, so he was pleased! 
Since receiving some pre-cooked salmon from the Saucy Fish Co a few weeks ago that's how I now like to buy it, although on my latest shopping trip had to opt for some that you need to cook yourself, thankfully in sealed bags that can be cooked in the microwave or oven, without the need for handling the fish.
I've never actually cooked cannelloni before so I thought it would make a nice change to our usual fusilli or penne, although Jack said that it wasn't real pasta.
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Salmon Cannelloni - serves 4

1 tbsp Olive oil
1 courgette
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 pre-cooked salmon fillets
250g Ricotta
1/2 tsp Chilli flakes
16 Cannelloni tubes (I used the type that don't need pre-cooking)
300ml Double cream
2 Egg yolks
pinch of cayenne pepper
50g Pecorino Romano (or Parmesan / Grana Padano), grated
100g Mature Cheddar Cheese, grated
Ground black pepper

  • Slice the courgette & then slice into strips
  • Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and add the courgettes & garlic
  • Fry on a medium heat for approximately 5 minutes until softened, then set aside
  • Flake the cooked salmon and mix with the Ricotta, chilli flakes and some ground black pepper
  • Stir the courgettes into the salmon mix
  • Fill the cannelloni tubes with the filling - the easiest way to do it is to use a piping bag
  • Lay the filled cannelloni in a baking dish
  • Mix the cream with the egg yolks, cayenne pepper, Pecorino cheese, half of the cheddar and some black pepper
  • Pour the cream over the cannelloni and top with remaining cheese
  • Cover with foil and bake in a preheated 180 C oven for 25 minutes and uncovered for an additional 15 minutes until golden brown and bubbling
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Saturday 8 June 2013

Honey Roast Parsnip Cake

This year we are attempting to grow our own veggies and plan to have a veggie patch in the garden. I'm not expecting big things from it as I don't seem to be very good at looking after plants. Potatoes and carrots seem to be our limit, along with a few strawberries that keep cropping up every year despite never taking care of the plant.

Thankfully we have friends that grow veggies, and they do it well. We were recently given some rhubarb that saw me through a rhubarb filled May, and then we were given parsnips.

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Bigger than parsnips that I had ever seen before, and these were apparently the small ones.

There was only one thing for it, parsnip cake. I debated whether to grate the parsnips into the cake batter or cook them first. I thought roasting them would bring out their natural sweetness so went with that option. I had recently been sent a hamper of mustards & sauces including a Dijon mustard with honey so I thought I would use a bit of that, but you could just use the honey.

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Honey Roast Parsnip Cake

425g Parsnips, peeled, trimmed & cut into chunks (prepared weight)
2 tbsp Olive oil
30g Honey
30g Maille Dijon Mustard with honey
200ml Sunflower oil
4 Eggs
200g Soft Brown sugar
2 tbsp honey
200g Self Raising flour
1 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp mixed spice

  • Heat the oil in a roasting pan in a 200 C oven for 5 minutes
  • Add the parsnips & roast for 20 minutes
  • Mix the honey with the mustard & honey & pour over the parsnips & mix well
  • Return to the oven & roast for an additional 20 minutes (or until soft & golden - you may need to reduce the cooking time depending on the size of the parsnip pieces)
  • Once the parsnips are cooked add them to a food processor & blitz until smooth
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  • Add the eggs, sugar and honey and blitz again
  • Add the flour, bicarbonate of soda, salt & spice and blitz until well combined
  • Pour the batter into a greased & lined baking tin approx 32cm x 22cm
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes until spongy to the touch (if you use a smaller tin you will need to bake for longer)
  • Allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack & cooling completely

This cake is perfect for picnics and lunchboxes. It also freezes and keeps well and is in fact moister and stickier the longer it's left. 

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Thursday 6 June 2013

Cheese & Roasted Vegetable Picnic Loaf

Hands up who knew that it's National Picnic Week from 17th to 23rd June? I didn't until Unilever contacted me with a challenge to come up with a recipe that will jazz up my picnic. Picnics are often uninspiring with just sandwiches, crisps and pre packed cakes or biscuits but they don't have to be.

I remember watching an episode of the Naked Chef once where Jamie Oliver made a picnic to have on Southend Pier that consisted of roast chicken, flatbreads and cous cous, which he wrapped up in tinfoil reinforced with a cardboard base and they ate off paper plates with plastic cutlery. Once everything was eaten they disposed of their foil & utensils and didn't have anything left to carry, such a genius idea.

This recipe has a similar concept - an all in one picnic meal that doesn't really need anything else to go with it. A big slice of this is a meal in itself, bread, cheese and veggies all in one bite. You could add salami or ham as well but I chose to make a meat free one this time. You can use any size loaf you like and adjust the ingredients accordingly - I used a 800g (approx) homemade Bloomer for this one.

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Cheese & Roasted Vegetable Picnic Loaf

1 large Bloomer
1 Aubergine
1 200g block of Apetina (Greek cheese)
1 red onion, sliced
2 tomatoes, sliced
2 x 125g Mozzarella balls
Chestnut mushrooms
Pitted Olives
Fresh basil leaves
1 jar of roasted red peppers
Colman's Garlic & Chilli Sauce
Colman's Sweet Chilli & Mango Sauce
Hellmann's Chilli mayonnaise
Olive oil
black pepper

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  • Slice the Aubergine lengthways and brush sides with olive oil
  • Slice the mushrooms and brush with a little olive oil
  • Cook the aubergine & mushrooms on a griddle pan in batches until softened & set aside
  • Slice the top off the bloomer and scoop out the inside leaving approx 2cm around the edge
  • Spread the inside of the loaf with Garlic & Chilli sauce
  • Layer up the loaf with the ingredients (I layered mine as shown below, with a squirt of chilli and mango sauce on top of the Greek cheese and a few scatterings of basil & a twist of black pepper here & there)

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  • Once the loaf has been filled spread some chilli mayonnaise over the cut side of the lid and place on top
  • Wrap tightly in clingfilm and place in the fridge with a weight on top (I used bottles of milk)
  • Leave overnight

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Very enjoyable with a big squeeze of Hellmann's Chilli Mayonnaise....

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I was sent a hamper of goodies to use in my picnic recipe

I have also entered this into a new challenge on Délicieux and Chez Foti which for June is Picnic Food & Outdoor Nibbles 

Four Seasons Food
Four Seasons Food hosted by Delicieux and Chezfoti

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Garlic & Basil Bread Bites

Al Fresco dining and summer salads seem to be well and truly upon us now and who doesn't love to have a bit of bread with their salad. I absolutely love bread, although bread doesn't love me, or rather it does love me and loves me so well that it just sits on my hips and stays there until I banish it from my diet for a few weeks. I find it hard to do that in the summer though as there is nothing better than a platter of lovely fresh tasty bread, cheese and salad - my mouth is watering just thinking of it.

At the weekend we spent a lot of time eating in the garden and for one of our family afternoon snacks I made an easy dough in the breadmaker and baked up some garlic and herb bites, which were great for dipping in Balsamic vinegar and eating with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. Breadmakers are great as you don't need any baking skills to make a very versatile dough, and you can then enjoy freshly baked bread whenever you like.

I use the same dough recipe for lots of breads as it works for me and can be used in both savoury and sweet recipes - for sweet ones such as Cinnamon buns I add sugar too.

Quantities of the garlic and basil will depend on your own taste and how garlicky and herby you like your bread - I used around 1 tbsp of basil paste and 1tsp of garlic paste.

Garlic & Basil Bread Bites

225ml milk
500g white bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
50g butter, softened
7g yeast
100ml (approx) Olive oil 
garlic paste or crushed fresh garlic cloves
basil paste or fresh basil made into a paste with a little olive oil 

  • Add the dough ingredients into the breadmaker in the order that your machine specifies and set to dough.
  • Once the dough is ready remove onto a lightly floured surface and roll out into a long sausage
  • Divide the sausage into 4 and roll each out a bit longer
  • Cut each piece into around 12 pieces - you don't need to be too precise here and at this point I lost count of the pieces that I was cutting - as long as they are all similar in size and bitesize then don't worry too much

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  • Mix the olive oil, basil and garlic together in a bowl
  • Roll each piece of dough in the oil until covered
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  • Let any excess oil drip off the dough and place into a baking tin

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    • Cover the tin with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for around an hour until the dough has doubled in size
    • Bake in a preheated 200 C oven for approximated 20 minutes
    • Whilst warm brush with a little more olive oil and toss into a bowl for serving (the bread will fall apart into pieces)

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    Serve with freshly sliced tomatoes and mozzarella and some Balsamic for dipping - or as an accompaniment to a main meal

      I have been sent a Panasonic breadmaker to try out for a few weeks for The Ideas Kitchen, come and see this and other recipes here

      Sunday 2 June 2013

      Turkey & Pesto French Bread Pizza

      One of the easiest ways to make pizza is by using a ready made base, but you don't need to just use a pizza base and to be honest many supermarket ready made bases are not particularly tasty. A popular ready made bread product to use as a pizza base in this house is naan bread, especially the garlic and coriander ones as they have so much flavour. Another great alternative is French bread as it's a good way to use up your day old french bread.

      This recipe uses very few ingredients and makes a very tasty pizza in around only 30 minutes. Great for  a Saturday night TV dinner or taking on a picnic

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      Turkey & Pesto French Bread Pizza - serves 4

      75g Red pesto
      225g Fresh Turkey thigh mince
      2 x 6" pieces of French bread
      125g Mozzarella, sliced
      Fresh Basil & Ground black pepper

      • Heat the pesto in a small frying pan
      • Add the mince & fry for 8-10 muntes until cooked
      • Slice the pieces of French stick lengthways to make 4 pieces
      • Divide the turkey between the 4 pieces of French bread & spread over the cut sides
      • Add the sliced mozzarella on top of the turkey
      • Add a twist of black pepper to each pizza
      • Bake in a preheated 180 C oven for approx 20 minutes until the cheese is golden
      • Remove from the oven, scatter with fresh basil and serve hot or wrap individually to take on a picnic

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      This post is an entry for BritMums’ Summer Turkey Recipe Challenge with Lean on Turkey

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      Saturday 1 June 2013

      Chilli Turkey Ciabatta

      We've had a few nice days recently so I hope I'm not tempting fate here by saying 'I wonder if Summer is finally on the way'....

      I'm hoping that this year we manage a bit more Al Fresco dining that we did last year, although to be honest I think we've managed that already. We have new garden furniture and a parasol that I hope will get plenty of use keeping the sun off us rather than the rain.

      I also hope (I'm doing a lot of hoping here) that we get to have some days out with a picnic. We may be just about the furthest from the beach that you can possibly be in this country but at least that means we won't be eating sand sandwiches. Picnics don't have to be boring and this turkey ciabatta sandwich was rustled up in 20 minutes and can be eaten hot or cold.

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      Chilli Turkey Ciabatta
      - serves 4

      4 Turkey breast steaks
      Olive oil
      4 tsp Hot Sweet Chilli Sauce
      2 tbsp Mayonnaise
      squeeze of lemon juice
      4 Ciabatta rolls
      handful of rocket

      • Lay the turkey steaks between 2 layers of clingfilm and bash with a rolling pin to flatten
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      • Rub both sides od the flattened turkey with olive oil and chilli sauce - use approx 1 tsp of chilli sauce per steak
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      • Heat a griddle pan (or you can use a bbq) and cook the steaks for approx 2-3 minutes on each side, until cooked completely through
      • In the meantime mix the mayonnaise and lemon juice together & set aside
      • Halve the ciabattas and once the turkey is cooked lay the bread cut side down on the griddle pan to toast for a minute
      • Spread the toasted sides of the ciabatta with the lemon mayonnaise
      • PIle some rocket onto one half of the ciabatta and lay the turkey steak on top and then place the other half of the roll on top

      This post is an entry for BritMums’ Summer Turkey Recipe Challenge with Lean on Turkey

       photo Lean-on-Turkey-Summer-badge_zpse6fae400.png

      I have also entered this into a new challenge on Délicieux and Chez Foti which for June is Picnic Food & Outdoor Nibbles 

      Four Seasons Food
      Four Seasons Food hosted by Delicieux and Chezfoti

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